DOL accuses auto dealer of violating odometer law

The Department of Licensing is accusing an auto dealer in Lynnwood of breaking a Washington law meant to protect consumers from odometer fraud.

If you're buying a used car, you want to know exactly how many miles it's been driven, which is why Washington state has strict laws against odometer fraud.

The Department of Licensing is accusing a dealer in Lynnwood of breaking one of those laws.

About two years ago, Lauryn Bates bought a used 2003 Subaru from Car Craft Auto Sales.

"I went in at 19, limited income, no credit history, and they were the only people I knew would finance me," Bates said of the company that advertises financing guarantees on its website.

Bates called KING 5 because she suspected Car Craft Auto had altered her odometer and not disclosed it at the time of purchase.

"I was naive and I fully believe they took advantage of that 100% thinking I wouldn't ever figure it out," Bates said.

Bates drove the Outback for two years and only discovered a problem when she tried to sell it.

A prospective and astute buyer pulled a vehicle history report, which revealed a huge discrepancy with her mileage.

Today her odometer reads 163,954, but that can't be right because three years ago the car was recorded as having 181,289 during a vehicle service, according to that vehicle report.

The buyer backed out, leaving Bates distraught.

"I have a car that has nothing, zero value whatsoever. I can't sell it to anybody," Bates said.

We called the Department of Licensing which investigated.

The DOL determined Car Craft Auto had swapped out the original odometer for one with lower mileage.

KING 5 also obtained an eBay receipt for a used odometer with Car Craft owner Gus Trefault's name on it. The DOL believes that odometer went into Bates' car.

In a letter to the state, the dealership also admitted it swapped out the odometer and the "replacement was not disclosed to Lauryn."

That's against the law.

Washington requires a seller to notify a buyer whenever an odometer has been replaced.

Trefault refused an in-person interview, but over the phone he told KING 5 he thought he was exempt from odometer laws because of the car's age. It was 10 years old.

The DOL said he's incorrect.

Independent mechanic Dave Eames of Pittman Automotive said Bates' mistake was not obtaining her own inspection complete with a vehicle history report before buying the Subaru.

You typically can get both for around $100, depending on the mechanic's hourly rate.

"Unless it is coming from a friend or owner you know the history of, trust but verify," Eames said.

Knowing what she knows now, Bates said that's a small price to pay for protection.

"I want people to be aware so that this doesn't happen to them," Bates said.

Because this was Car Craft's first known offense, the DOL said it gave the company a warning rather than filing charges.

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